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February 17, 2011, Sponsored by RMC Project Management, Inc.

From the Editor

I need you, you need me… we're a project family! For all those whose minds were just invaded by a singing purple dinosaur, I sincerely apologize. (If the reference is completely lost on you, consider yourself fortunate. Don't even bother googling; just go on happily with your life.) Treacly sentiments aside, the team aspect of project work is impossible to overlook -- and it sometimes seems that it's impossible to get it right. You only have to forget one critical team member, overlook one critical dependency, or disregard one critical stakeholder to bring the point home in neon-vivid detail.

This week's newsletter is dedicated to avoiding the words of doom on every project: "Oh, I didn't know you needed that first!", "Oh, I didn't realize you were unavailable!", and, worst of all, "Oh, I didn't know you cared!"

Featured Article

Leading with your Weakness
by Geof Lory

Geof Lory To me, the budgeting process looks a lot like placing a sports bet: extensive analysis and planning by those not directly participating, little knowledge of the actual game plan, even less about the condition of the individual team members, and we can only predict the environment in which the game will be played. Yet we predict, promise, and plan at levels of precision that belie the reliability of the information we have. Would that we were as smart as we think we are.

The problem with budgetary planning is not the planning, but rather our perception and use of the plan. We actually believe we know what we are talking about. As a person who has created more plans for budgets than I care to admit, I can honestly say I never really believed any of them. They exist merely to appease some corporate process or management need for funding. To me, it is a shell game with less chance of coming out ahead than placing a random bet on the Super Bowl.

I don't mean to bash planning for budgets, because I actually like to plan. I just don't place that much stock in the plan itself.

Read on for Geof's rationale, and his alternative to detailed budget planning exercises »

Premium How-To Course

NEWLeadership from Every Seat at the Project TablePREMIUM
Michael Aucoin, President of Leading Edge Management
1 Category A (formerly Category 3) PDU

Michael Aucoin A team is a fabric, and each person's contribution adds to its overall strength. As a proactive project leader, you want to get your team members working together to address issues on their own initiative, instead of waiting for someone else to step up and take the lead. You want to support the development of your team members as well as your project's deliverables. You want an energized project environment, with team members who take responsibility for keeping relationships positive and effective. You want leadership from every seat at the table. 1 PDU

Site Highlights

I Think We Missed a Spot - Plan & Schedule Development: Identifying DependenciesSPECIAL
This Premium resource is free to registered Members until March 3!
Figuring out where all the pieces fit together, and in what order, is one of the trickiest bits of creating a project schedule. Just about every project manager is familiar with the sudden creeping sense of panic that arises halfway through a project, when you realize you overlooked a critical step. This template -- the second in our series on developing a sane project plan and schedule -- is dedicated to avoid that sinking feeling, and the work stoppage that often accompanies it. (See the rest of the series to work your way through step-by-step to a complete project plan document.)

Hey, Can I Borrow Your Brain? -
Knowing in Community: 10 Critical Success Factors in Building Communities of Practice
PREMIUM
As your project managers pool their knowledge and experience, you can help them help each other by supporting communities of practice within your organization. This paper by Richard McDermott stresses 10 Critical Success Factors for any community of practice to grow, thrive, and succeed, along with its member PMs. Find out how to help your project staff share a collective brain successfully, with better results for everyone in the process.

We Need a Signal in Case There's Trouble - Project Escalation Process GuidelinesMEMBER
One standard default is flailing wildly. While that might work, most teams prefer a more… orderly approach. A solid Project Escalation Process can help your team members signal when they need each other, or the project manager, or even upper management, to resolve an issue, and can also keep them from hitting the customer's panic button unnecessarily. It may not be as satisfying as a wild meeting freak-out, but it's sure to be a lot more productive.

We Have to Stop Meeting Like This - Effective Meetings ChecklistPREMIUM
Speaking of meetings, if yours are suffering, your attendees are too. More to the point, so is your work. Meetings should be an opportunity, not a burden. You can't work a project successfully without them, so you might as well make them the best they can possibly be. This checklist hits the most common problem areas for typical team meetings -- lack of preparation, lack of focus, and lack of attendance/buy-in needed to get the work done -- and walks the meeting planner (whoever it may be) through common solutions for each. It might make a nice valentine offering to that meeting leader. (You know who we mean.)

10 Heads Are Better Than 01 - Coding Review GuidelinesPREMIUM
Lousy binary jokes aside, setting up a formal code review process can lead to better code, not to mention better coders. There's always something to learn from others' approaches, and an extra set of eyes to review code and catch errors before they're integrated can save hours, or even days, of code debugging. But you need a process that's collaborative, not antagonistic. (In general, people don't mind being reviewed but *hate* being judged.) These guidelines can help you set up a constructive review process for your software team, to ensure 0010 + 0010 = 0100.

I Didn't Know You Cared! -
Project Stakeholder/Influencer Assessment and Communication Plan
PREMIUM
Those aren't words you want to hear yourself saying, or even thinking, in a project environment. Instead, start off right now by listing all the people who probably care -- or who matter, even if they don't really care. This guideline will help you identify all the possible project influencers; the folks who could make the project easier (or harder) by helping (or not), advocating (or not), being there (or not), or just generally being awesome (you get the picture). Once you have a solid list, you can develop a plan for letting them know how much you care that they care, so they'll be there when you need them.

Project Practitioner Blogs

Ed Reynolds We've got a new blogger this month! Please give a warm ProjectConnections welcome to Ed Reynolds. Ed is a management veteran of over 20 years. After taking a bit of a drubbing for his early management style, Ed did something exceedingly rare in the business world: he learned from his early missteps and took steps to correct them. In fact, he has dedicated his career -- and now his contributions to the Project Practitioners blog -- to identifying and implementing good management skills. Ed's writing is focused on real-world management skills: delegating, coaching, managing up and other topics of interest for first-time and veteran managers, all from his first-hand experiences in management. His first few posts deal with very practical aspects of project leadership: If you read nothing else this week, spend 10 minutes reading his entry on delegation, and another 10 really, truly thinking about it. We'll have a lot more to say about this critical subject at ProjectConnections in the not-too-distant future, but meanwhile, we're glad to have Ed taking up the charge. We hope you'll drop by to offer him some words of welcome too.

Other recent ProjectPractitioners posts:

Kent McDonald reviews Winston Churchill's memoir, The Second World War, and the project management lessons hidden in Operation Sea Lion.

Morley Selver discusses the dangerous quicksand of Hidden Contracts, where they can crop up, and how they can trap your project in the mire.

Ann Drinkwater provides a point-by-point plan for Proper Methods for Resource Planning

Where's ProjectConnections?

Kent McDonald will speak at Software Development Conference (SDC) 2011. SDC is being held at Wellington, New Zealand March 21 - 22, 2011 and Sydney, Australia March 24 - 25, 2011. At both locations, Kent will present Strategically Speaking: Why Are We Doing This Again? and Is It Worth It? Using a Business Value Model to Guide Decisions.

Corporate Subscriptions and Licensing

Want your team members to have their own access to templates and how-to resources for their project work? Need to share documents and deliverables beyond your project team? We make it easier with affordable corporate subscriptions and licensing. Detailed information regarding corporate options is available online. Give your whole team, or even the entire organization, cost-effective access to our comprehensive online library of resources. You already know how helpful it's been for you. Now it's time to share with everyone else. Find out more »

Not sure if corporate terms apply to you? Check out our licensing terms at the top of our Terms of Service page, in refreshingly ordinary, everyday English.


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